Tips For Selling a Vacant Property

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If you’re preparing to sell your home and you’ve mentioned it to friends and coworkers, you’ve probably become a target for scads of unsolicited real estate advice. Among the most popular refrains you’ll hear is that you should try to make your home look bigger – always bigger! Of course, it’s sound advice – in fact, decluttering for the sake of showcasing your home’s spaciousness is something we emphasize with sellers.

Nevertheless, you might find yourself in the less-common situation of having an empty house to sell, which can present its own set of challenges. While we can’t tell you the best way to deflect volleys of unsolicited selling tips, below are 4 effective tips for getting your empty house ready for sale.


1. Small imperfections look BIG in an empty house, so repair marks on walls, baseboards, and door frames

In a room with no furniture and bare walls, you’ll probably start to see a lot of imperfections you’ve never noticed before: all the scuffs, dents, nail holes, and uneven surfaces suddenly come into focus and can make the room look shabbier than you’d imagined.

Luckily, a bit of mudding, sanding, and painting can take care of those superficial wounds, and doing the work in an empty house will practically feel like a vacation compared to doing it amongst your household items.

The three-fold benefit of small repairs to walls and door frames?

  • You’ll freshen up the room
  • It’s an opportunity to change the paint colours to something more neutral (which is good for appealing to larger audiences)
  • The smell of fresh paint suggests cleanliness and newness

Don’t take it for granted that your buyers will be too focused on the house as a whole to notice small imperfections – your walls may not have ears, but all eyes will be on them if your home is empty during showings.


2. Don’t give buyers a reason to look down on your home – give the floors some TLC

In the same way that sheer emptiness reveals imperfect walls, you might be a little aghast at the condition of your floors once you’ve moved your furniture out. Worn-off wood finishes, dingy carpets, and blackened tile grout in high-traffic areas are some of the evils you might have to contend with, all of which can be off-putting to potential buyers who don’t want to see the worn-in traces of other people’s feet.

If you’re not prepared to refinish the floors or hire professionals to clean them, a little elbow grease and these tricks can work wonders:

  • For scratches and smaller wear marks on wooden floors, rub a piece of raw walnut into the blemish – the oils will make the damage less visible.
  • For less-than-pristine carpets, rent a carpet steamer from your local grocery or home store and do a deep clean – just be sure to do this several days before any showings to allow the carpet to fully dry!
  • For dingy tile grout, make a paste by adding water to a powdered oxygen bleach, let it sit on the stains for 15 minutes, then scrub the grout with a stiff-bristled brush and mop up what’s left behind.

Whether you’re willing to invest a bit of hard work or money into your floors, you’ll be rewarded with buyers whose focus isn’t at their feet.


3. Give the buyers some perspective – add a focal point to every room

We often think about vision in an oversimplified way, assuming we’re always in full control of where we’re looking and that what we perceive is ‘reality.’ No, we’re not suggesting you become an expert in metaphysics to sell your empty house! Just keep in mind that if a room lacks a focal point, the buyer’s eye tends to wander and is more likely to settle on tiny flaws, and contrary to what we might think, empty rooms can seem smaller than they are because there’s nothing to provide perspective.

Luckily, both problems are easily solved by leaving behind or adding a few tasteful items that can anchor the eye and show the relative spaciousness that your home offers. Here are a few possibilities:

  • In bedrooms, demonstrate size and add some warmth by leaving behind a bureau or neatly made bed and ensure the bed is on a frame
  • In the living room, a painting or mirror hung near an accent chair can create a little tableau with just enough punch.
  • In the dining room, a hutch or sideboard – even an empty one – can create a homey nostalgia, but even a kitchen chair with a welcoming pillow can do the trick.

If you haven’t got the furniture to spare, it could be worth a trip to a local second-hand store to pick up a few inexpensive pieces. The goal is simply to add some dimension and something to focus on besides tiny flaws.


4. A sad property will bring low offers, so make sure the home looks loved

Without the right care, vacant properties can come across as being undesirable, neglected or abandoned, and buyers might assume you’re desperate to sell such a dolorous burden. These signals can, in turn, lead to low-ball offers or prevent offers from coming in.

Don’t let your empty house send the wrong messages to buyers – show its value and potential by doing the following:

  • Keep the utilities on. Buyers will want to turn on lights and test the water pressure, and keeping the porch light on will make the home seem more inviting if it’s being shown in the evening.
  • Resist the temptation to temporarily leave storage spaces, like garages, sheds, and basements, filled with your seldom-used belongings or junk you’re planning to get rid of.
  • Ensure that the grass is frequently cut or, if you’re selling in winter, that the driveway and front steps are shoveled. Not only will the house look more inviting, it can help stave off vandalism.

While it may not be convenient to have to care for the empty house you’re selling, investing some time or a few more dollars on its up-keep can make a big impact on your sale price.


Buyers want to come home

Through all your sale preparations, remember that your potential buyers are looking for more than a house – they’re looking for a home, a comfortable place for the next chapter in their lives to unfold. It’s always harder to make empty rooms feel comfortable and inviting, but with some creativity, perseverance, and an eye for detail, you can show buyers all that your home has to offer.

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